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In Notes 2, the Riemann zeta function (and more generally, the Dirichlet -functions ) were extended meromorphically into the region in and to the right of the critical strip. This is a sufficient amount of meromorphic continuation for many applications in analytic number theory, such as establishing the prime number theorem and its variants. The zeroes of the zeta function in the critical strip are known as the *non-trivial zeroes* of , and thanks to the truncated explicit formulae developed in Notes 2, they control the asymptotic distribution of the primes (up to small errors).

The function obeys the trivial functional equation

for all in its domain of definition. Indeed, as is real-valued when is real, the function vanishes on the real line and is also meromorphic, and hence vanishes everywhere. Similarly one has the functional equation

From these equations we see that the zeroes of the zeta function are symmetric across the real axis, and the zeroes of are the reflection of the zeroes of across this axis.

It is a remarkable fact that these functions obey an additional, and more non-trivial, functional equation, this time establishing a symmetry across the *critical line* rather than the real axis. One consequence of this symmetry is that the zeta function and -functions may be extended meromorphically to the entire complex plane. For the zeta function, the functional equation was discovered by Riemann, and reads as follows:

Theorem 1 (Functional equation for the Riemann zeta function)The Riemann zeta function extends meromorphically to the entire complex plane, with a simple pole at and no other poles. Furthermore, one has the functional equationfor all complex other than , where is the function

Here , are the complex-analytic extensions of the classical trigionometric functions , and is the Gamma function, whose definition and properties we review below the fold.

The functional equation can be placed in a more symmetric form as follows:

Corollary 2 (Functional equation for the Riemann xi function)The Riemann xi functionis analytic on the entire complex plane (after removing all removable singularities), and obeys the functional equations

In particular, the zeroes of consist precisely of the non-trivial zeroes of , and are symmetric about both the real axis and the critical line. Also, is real-valued on the critical line and on the real axis.

Corollary 2 is an easy consequence of Theorem 1 together with the duplication theorem for the Gamma function, and the fact that has no zeroes to the right of the critical strip, and is left as an exercise to the reader (Exercise 19). The functional equation in Theorem 1 has many proofs, but most of them are related in on way or another to the Poisson summation formula

(Theorem 34 from Supplement 2, at least in the case when is twice continuously differentiable and compactly supported), which can be viewed as a Fourier-analytic link between the coarse-scale distribution of the integers and the fine-scale distribution of the integers. Indeed, there is a quick heuristic proof of the functional equation that comes from formally applying the Poisson summation formula to the function , and noting that the functions and are formally Fourier transforms of each other, up to some Gamma function factors, as well as some trigonometric factors arising from the distinction between the real line and the half-line. Such a heuristic proof can indeed be made rigorous, and we do so below the fold, while also providing Riemann’s two classical proofs of the functional equation.

From the functional equation (and the poles of the Gamma function), one can see that has *trivial zeroes* at the negative even integers , in addition to the non-trivial zeroes in the critical strip. More generally, the following table summarises the zeroes and poles of the various special functions appearing in the functional equation, after they have been meromorphically extended to the entire complex plane, and with zeroes classified as “non-trivial” or “trivial” depending on whether they lie in the critical strip or not. (Exponential functions such as or have no zeroes or poles, and will be ignored in this table; the zeroes and poles of rational functions such as are self-evident and will also not be displayed here.)

Function | Non-trivial zeroes | Trivial zeroes | Poles |

Yes | |||

Yes | |||

No | Even integers | No | |

No | Odd integers | No | |

No | Integers | No | |

No | No | ||

No | No | ||

No | No | ||

No | No | ||

Yes | No | No |

Among other things, this table indicates that the Gamma and trigonometric factors in the functional equation are tied to the trivial zeroes and poles of zeta, but have no direct bearing on the distribution of the non-trivial zeroes, which is the most important feature of the zeta function for the purposes of analytic number theory, beyond the fact that they are symmetric about the real axis and critical line. In particular, the Riemann hypothesis is not going to be resolved just from further analysis of the Gamma function!

The zeta function computes the “global” sum , with ranging all the way from to infinity. However, by some Fourier-analytic (or complex-analytic) manipulation, it is possible to use the zeta function to also control more “localised” sums, such as for some and some smooth compactly supported function . It turns out that the functional equation (3) for the zeta function localises to this context, giving an *approximate functional equation* which roughly speaking takes the form

whenever and ; see Theorem 38 below for a precise formulation of this equation. Unsurprisingly, this form of the functional equation is also very closely related to the Poisson summation formula (8), indeed it is essentially a special case of that formula (or more precisely, of the van der Corput -process). This useful identity relates long smoothed sums of to short smoothed sums of (or vice versa), and can thus be used to shorten exponential sums involving terms such as , which is useful when obtaining some of the more advanced estimates on the Riemann zeta function.

We will give two other basic uses of the functional equation. The first is to get a good count (as opposed to merely an upper bound) on the density of zeroes in the critical strip, establishing the Riemann-von Mangoldt formula that the number of zeroes of imaginary part between and is for large . The other is to obtain untruncated versions of the explicit formula from Notes 2, giving a remarkable exact formula for sums involving the von Mangoldt function in terms of zeroes of the Riemann zeta function. These results are not strictly necessary for most of the material in the rest of the course, but certainly help to clarify the nature of the Riemann zeta function and its relation to the primes.

In view of the material in previous notes, it should not be surprising that there are analogues of all of the above theory for Dirichlet -functions . We will restrict attention to primitive characters , since the -function for imprimitive characters merely differs from the -function of the associated primitive factor by a finite Euler product; indeed, if for some principal whose modulus is coprime to that of , then

(cf. equation (45) of Notes 2).

The main new feature is that the Poisson summation formula needs to be “twisted” by a Dirichlet character , and this boils down to the problem of understanding the finite (additive) Fourier transform of a Dirichlet character. This is achieved by the classical theory of Gauss sums, which we review below the fold. There is one new wrinkle; the value of plays a role in the functional equation. More precisely, we have

Theorem 3 (Functional equation for -functions)Let be a primitive character of modulus with . Then extends to an entire function on the complex plane, withor equivalently

for all , where is equal to in the even case and in the odd case , and

where is the Gauss sum

and , with the convention that the -periodic function is also (by abuse of notation) applied to in the cyclic group .

From this functional equation and (2) we see that, as with the Riemann zeta function, the non-trivial zeroes of (defined as the zeroes within the critical strip are symmetric around the critical line (and, if is real, are also symmetric around the real axis). In addition, acquires trivial zeroes at the negative even integers and at zero if , and at the negative odd integers if . For imprimitive , we see from (9) that also acquires some additional trivial zeroes on the left edge of the critical strip.

There is also a symmetric version of this equation, analogous to Corollary 2:

Corollary 4Let be as above, and setthen is entire with .

For further detail on the functional equation and its implications, I recommend the classic text of Titchmarsh or the text of Davenport.

In Notes 1, we approached multiplicative number theory (the study of multiplicative functions and their relatives) via elementary methods, in which attention was primarily focused on obtaining asymptotic control on summatory functions and logarithmic sums . Now we turn to the complex approach to multiplicative number theory, in which the focus is instead on obtaining various types of control on the Dirichlet series , defined (at least for of sufficiently large real part) by the formula

These series also made an appearance in the elementary approach to the subject, but only for real that were larger than . But now we will exploit the freedom to extend the variable to the complex domain; this gives enough freedom (in principle, at least) to recover control of elementary sums such as or from control on the Dirichlet series. Crucially, for many key functions of number-theoretic interest, the Dirichlet series can be analytically (or at least meromorphically) continued to the left of the line . The zeroes and poles of the resulting meromorphic continuations of (and of related functions) then turn out to control the asymptotic behaviour of the elementary sums of ; the more one knows about the former, the more one knows about the latter. In particular, knowledge of where the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function are located can give very precise information about the distribution of the primes, by means of a fundamental relationship known as the explicit formula. There are many ways of phrasing this explicit formula (both in exact and in approximate forms), but they are all trying to formalise an approximation to the von Mangoldt function (and hence to the primes) of the form

where the sum is over zeroes (counting multiplicity) of the Riemann zeta function (with the sum often restricted so that has large real part and bounded imaginary part), and the approximation is in a suitable weak sense, so that

for suitable “test functions” (which in practice are restricted to be fairly smooth and slowly varying, with the precise amount of restriction dependent on the amount of truncation in the sum over zeroes one wishes to take). Among other things, such approximations can be used to rigorously establish the prime number theorem

as , with the size of the error term closely tied to the location of the zeroes of the Riemann zeta function.

The explicit formula (1) (or any of its more rigorous forms) is closely tied to the counterpart approximation

for the Dirichlet series of the von Mangoldt function; note that (4) is formally the special case of (2) when . Such approximations come from the general theory of local factorisations of meromorphic functions, as discussed in Supplement 2; the passage from (4) to (2) is accomplished by such tools as the residue theorem and the Fourier inversion formula, which were also covered in Supplement 2. The relative ease of uncovering the Fourier-like duality between primes and zeroes (sometimes referred to poetically as the “music of the primes”) is one of the major advantages of the complex-analytic approach to multiplicative number theory; this important duality tends to be rather obscured in the other approaches to the subject, although it can still in principle be discernible with sufficient effort.

More generally, one has an explicit formula

for any (non-principal) Dirichlet character , where now ranges over the zeroes of the associated Dirichlet -function ; we view this formula as a “twist” of (1) by the Dirichlet character . The explicit formula (5), proven similarly (in any of its rigorous forms) to (1), is important in establishing the prime number theorem in arithmetic progressions, which asserts that

as , whenever is a fixed primitive residue class. Again, the size of the error term here is closely tied to the location of the zeroes of the Dirichlet -function, with particular importance given to whether there is a zero very close to (such a zero is known as an *exceptional zero* or Siegel zero).

While any information on the behaviour of zeta functions or -functions is in principle welcome for the purposes of analytic number theory, some regions of the complex plane are more important than others in this regard, due to the differing weights assigned to each zero in the explicit formula. Roughly speaking, in descending order of importance, the most crucial regions on which knowledge of these functions is useful are

- The region on or near the point .
- The region on or near the right edge of the
*critical strip*. - The right half of the critical strip.
- The region on or near the
*critical line*that bisects the critical strip. - Everywhere else.

For instance:

- We will shortly show that the Riemann zeta function has a simple pole at with residue , which is already sufficient to recover much of the classical theorems of Mertens discussed in the previous set of notes, as well as results on mean values of multiplicative functions such as the divisor function . For Dirichlet -functions, the behaviour is instead controlled by the quantity discussed in Notes 1, which is in turn closely tied to the existence and location of a Siegel zero.
- The zeta function is also known to have no zeroes on the right edge of the critical strip, which is sufficient to prove (and is in fact equivalent to) the prime number theorem. Any enlargement of the zero-free region for into the critical strip leads to improved error terms in that theorem, with larger zero-free regions leading to stronger error estimates. Similarly for -functions and the prime number theorem in arithmetic progressions.
- The (as yet unproven) Riemann hypothesis prohibits from having any zeroes within the right half of the critical strip, and gives very good control on the number of primes in intervals, even when the intervals are relatively short compared to the size of the entries. Even without assuming the Riemann hypothesis,
*zero density estimates*in this region are available that give some partial control of this form. Similarly for -functions, primes in short arithmetic progressions, and the generalised Riemann hypothesis. - Assuming the Riemann hypothesis, further distributional information about the zeroes on the critical line (such as Montgomery’s pair correlation conjecture, or the more general
*GUE hypothesis*) can give finer information about the error terms in the prime number theorem in short intervals, as well as other arithmetic information. Again, one has analogues for -functions and primes in short arithmetic progressions. - The functional equation of the zeta function describes the behaviour of to the left of the critical line, in terms of the behaviour to the right of the critical line. This is useful for building a “global” picture of the structure of the zeta function, and for improving a number of estimates about that function, but (in the absence of unproven conjectures such as the Riemann hypothesis or the pair correlation conjecture) it turns out that many of the basic analytic number theory results using the zeta function can be established without relying on this equation. Similarly for -functions.

Remark 1If one takes an “adelic” viewpoint, one can unite the Riemann zeta function and all of the -functions for various Dirichlet characters into a single object, viewing as a general multiplicative character on the adeles; thus the imaginary coordinate and the Dirichlet character are really the Archimedean and non-Archimedean components respectively of a single adelic frequency parameter. This viewpoint was famously developed in Tate’s thesis, which among other things helps to clarify the nature of the functional equation, as discussed in this previous post. We will not pursue the adelic viewpoint further in these notes, but it does supply a “high-level” explanation for why so much of the theory of the Riemann zeta function extends to the Dirichlet -functions. (The non-Archimedean character and the Archimedean character behave similarly from an algebraic point of view, but not so much from an analytic point of view; as such, the adelic viewpoint is well suited for algebraic tasks (such as establishing the functional equation), but not for analytic tasks (such as establishing a zero-free region).)

Roughly speaking, the elementary multiplicative number theory from Notes 1 corresponds to the information one can extract from the complex-analytic method in region 1 of the above hierarchy, while the more advanced elementary number theory used to prove the prime number theorem (and which we will not cover in full detail in these notes) corresponds to what one can extract from regions 1 and 2.

As a consequence of this hierarchy of importance, information about the function away from the critical strip, such as Euler’s identity

or equivalently

or the infamous identity

which is often presented (slightly misleadingly, if one’s conventions for divergent summation are not made explicit) as

are of relatively little direct importance in analytic prime number theory, although they are still of interest for some other, non-number-theoretic, applications. (The quantity does play a minor role as a normalising factor in some asymptotics, see e.g. Exercise 28 from Notes 1, but its precise value is usually not of major importance.) In contrast, the value of an -function at turns out to be extremely important in analytic number theory, with many results in this subject relying ultimately on a non-trivial lower-bound on this quantity coming from Siegel’s theorem, discussed below the fold.

For a more in-depth treatment of the topics in this set of notes, see Davenport’s “Multiplicative number theory“.

We will shortly turn to the complex-analytic approach to multiplicative number theory, which relies on the basic properties of complex analytic functions. In this supplement to the main notes, we quickly review the portions of complex analysis that we will be using in this course. We will not attempt a comprehensive review of this subject; for instance, we will completely neglect the conformal geometry or Riemann surface aspect of complex analysis, and we will also avoid using the various boundary convergence theorems for Taylor series or Dirichlet series (the latter type of result is traditionally utilised in multiplicative number theory, but I personally find them a little unintuitive to use, and will instead rely on a slightly different set of complex-analytic tools). We will also focus on the “local” structure of complex analytic functions, in particular adopting the philosophy that such functions behave locally like complex polynomials; the classical “global” theory of entire functions, while traditionally used in the theory of the Riemann zeta function, will be downplayed in these notes. On the other hand, we will play up the relationship between complex analysis and Fourier analysis, as we will incline to using the latter tool over the former in some of the subsequent material. (In the traditional approach to the subject, the Mellin transform is used in place of the Fourier transform, but we will not emphasise the role of the Mellin transform here.)

We begin by recalling the notion of a holomorphic function, which will later be shown to be essentially synonymous with that of a complex analytic function.

Definition 1 (Holomorphic function)Let be an open subset of , and let be a function. If , we say that iscomplex differentiableat if the limitexists, in which case we refer to as the (complex)

derivativeof at . If is differentiable at every point of , and the derivative is continuous, we say that isholomorphicon .

Exercise 2Show that a function is holomorphic if and only if the two-variable function is continuously differentiable on and obeys the Cauchy-Riemann equation

Basic examples of holomorphic functions include complex polynomials

as well as the complex exponential function

which are holomorphic on the entire complex plane (i.e., they are entire functions). The sum or product of two holomorphic functions is again holomorphic; the quotient of two holomorphic functions is holomorphic so long as the denominator is non-zero. Finally, the composition of two holomorphic functions is holomorphic wherever the composition is defined.

- (i) Establish Euler’s formula
for all . (

Hint:it is a bit tricky to do this starting from the trigonometric definitions of sine and cosine; I recommend either using the Taylor series formulations of these functions instead, or alternatively relying on the ordinary differential equations obeyed by sine and cosine.)- (ii) Show that every non-zero complex number has a complex logarithm such that , and that this logarithm is unique up to integer multiples of .
- (iii) Show that there exists a unique principal branch of the complex logarithm in the region , defined by requiring to be a logarithm of with imaginary part between and . Show that this principal branch is holomorphic with derivative .

In real analysis, we have the fundamental theorem of calculus, which asserts that

whenever is a real interval and is a continuously differentiable function. The complex analogue of this fact is that

whenever is a holomorphic function, and is a contour in , by which we mean a piecewise continuously differentiable function, and the contour integral for a continuous function is defined via change of variables as

The complex fundamental theorem of calculus (2) follows easily from the real fundamental theorem and the chain rule.

In real analysis, we have the rather trivial fact that the integral of a continuous function on a closed contour is always zero:

In complex analysis, the analogous fact is significantly more powerful, and is known as Cauchy’s theorem:

Theorem 4 (Cauchy’s theorem)Let be a holomorphic function in a simply connected open set , and let be a closed contour in (thus ). Then .

Exercise 5Use Stokes’ theorem to give a proof of Cauchy’s theorem.

A useful reformulation of Cauchy’s theorem is that of contour shifting: if is a holomorphic function on a open set , and are two contours in an open set with and , such that can be continuously deformed into , then . A basic application of contour shifting is the Cauchy integral formula:

Theorem 6 (Cauchy integral formula)Let be a holomorphic function in a simply connected open set , and let be a closed contour which is simple (thus does not traverse any point more than once, with the exception of the endpoint that is traversed twice), and which encloses a bounded region in the anticlockwise direction. Then for any , one has

*Proof:* Let be a sufficiently small quantity. By contour shifting, one can replace the contour by the sum (concatenation) of three contours: a contour from to , a contour traversing the circle once anticlockwise, and the reversal of the contour that goes from to . The contributions of the contours cancel each other, thus

By a change of variables, the right-hand side can be expanded as

Sending , we obtain the claim.

The Cauchy integral formula has many consequences. Specialising to the case when traverses a circle around , we conclude the mean value property

whenever is holomorphic in a neighbourhood of the disk . In a similar spirit, we have the maximum principle for holomorphic functions:

Lemma 7 (Maximum principle)Let be a simply connected open set, and let be a simple closed contour in enclosing a bounded region anti-clockwise. Let be a holomorphic function. If we have the bound for all on the contour , then we also have the bound for all .

*Proof:* We use an argument of Landau. Fix . From the Cauchy integral formula and the triangle inequality we have the bound

for some constant depending on and . This ostensibly looks like a weaker bound than what we want, but we can miraculously make the constant disappear by the “tensor power trick“. Namely, observe that if is a holomorphic function bounded in magnitude by on , and is a natural number, then is a holomorphic function bounded in magnitude by on . Applying the preceding argument with replaced by we conclude that

and hence

Sending , we obtain the claim.

Another basic application of the integral formula is

Corollary 8Every holomorphic function is complex analytic, thus it has a convergent Taylor series around every point in the domain. In particular, holomorphic functions are smooth, and the derivative of a holomorphic function is again holomorphic.

Conversely, it is easy to see that complex analytic functions are holomorphic. Thus, the terms “complex analytic” and “holomorphic” are synonymous, at least when working on open domains. (On a non-open set , saying that is analytic on is equivalent to asserting that extends to a holomorphic function of an open neighbourhood of .) This is in marked contrast to real analysis, in which a function can be continuously differentiable, or even smooth, without being real analytic.

*Proof:* By translation, we may suppose that . Let be a a contour traversing the circle that is contained in the domain , then by the Cauchy integral formula one has

for all in the disk . As is continuously differentiable (and hence continuous) on , it is bounded. From the geometric series formula

and dominated convergence, we conclude that

with the right-hand side an absolutely convergent series for , and the claim follows.

Exercise 9Establish the generalised Cauchy integral formulaefor any non-negative integer , where is the -fold complex derivative of .

This in turn leads to a converse to Cauchy’s theorem, known as Morera’s theorem:

Corollary 10 (Morera’s theorem)Let be a continuous function on an open set with the property that for all closed contours . Then is holomorphic.

*Proof:* We can of course assume to be non-empty and connected (hence path-connected). Fix a point , and define a “primitive” of by defining , with being any contour from to (this is well defined by hypothesis). By mimicking the proof of the real fundamental theorem of calculus, we see that is holomorphic with , and the claim now follows from Corollary 8.

An important consequence of Morera’s theorem for us is

Corollary 11 (Locally uniform limit of holomorphic functions is holomorphic)Let be holomorphic functions on an open set which converge locally uniformly to a function . Then is also holomorphic on .

*Proof:* By working locally we may assume that is a ball, and in particular simply connected. By Cauchy’s theorem, for all closed contours in . By local uniform convergence, this implies that for all such contours, and the claim then follows from Morera’s theorem.

Now we study the zeroes of complex analytic functions. If a complex analytic function vanishes at a point , but is not identically zero in a neighbourhood of that point, then by Taylor expansion we see that factors in a sufficiently small neighbourhood of as

for some natural number (which we call the *order* or *multiplicity* of the zero at ) and some function that is complex analytic and non-zero near ; this generalises the factor theorem for polynomials. In particular, the zero is isolated if does not vanish identically near . We conclude that if is connected and vanishes on a neighbourhood of some point in , then it must vanish on all of (since the maximal connected neighbourhood of in on which vanishes cannot have any boundary point in ). This implies unique continuation of analytic functions: if two complex analytic functions on agree on a non-empty open set, then they agree everywhere. In particular, if a complex analytic function does not vanish everywhere, then all of its zeroes are isolated, so in particular it has only finitely many zeroes on any given compact set.

Recall that a rational function is a function which is a quotient of two polynomials (at least outside of the set where vanishes). Analogously, let us define a meromorphic function on an open set to be a function defined outside of a discrete subset of (the *singularities* of ), which is locally the quotient of holomorphic functions, in the sense that for every , one has in a neighbourhood of excluding , with holomorphic near and with non-vanishing outside of . If and has a zero of equal or higher order than at , then the singularity is removable and one can extend the meromorphic function holomorphically across (by the holomorphic factor theorem (4)); otherwise, the singularity is non-removable and is known as a *pole*, whose order is equal to the difference between the order of and the order of at . (If one wished, one could extend meromorphic functions to the poles by embedding in the Riemann sphere and mapping each pole to , but we will not do so here. One could also consider non-meromorphic functions with essential singularities at various points, but we will have no need to analyse such singularities in this course.) If the order of a pole or zero is one, we say that it is *simple*; if it is two, we say it is *double*; and so forth.

Exercise 12Show that the space of meromorphic functions on a non-empty open set , quotiented by almost everywhere equivalence, forms a field.

By quotienting two Taylor series, we see that if a meromorphic function has a pole of order at some point , then it has a Laurent expansion

absolutely convergent in a neighbourhood of excluding itself, and with non-zero. The Laurent coefficient has a special significance, and is called the residue of the meromorphic function at , which we will denote as . The importance of this coefficient comes from the following significant generalisation of the Cauchy integral formula, known as the residue theorem:

Exercise 13 (Residue theorem)Let be a meromorphic function on a simply connected domain , and let be a closed contour in enclosing a bounded region anticlockwise, and avoiding all the singularities of . Show thatwhere is summed over all the poles of that lie in .

The residue theorem is particularly useful when applied to logarithmic derivatives of meromorphic functions , because the residue is of a specific form:

Exercise 14Let be a meromorphic function on an open set that does not vanish identically. Show that the only poles of are simple poles (poles of order ), occurring at the poles and zeroes of (after all removable singularities have been removed). Furthermore, the residue of at a pole is an integer, equal to the order of zero of if has a zero at , or equal to negative the order of pole at if has a pole at .

Remark 15The fact that residues of logarithmic derivatives of meromorphic functions are automatically integers is a remarkable feature of the complex analytic approach to multiplicative number theory, which is difficult (though not entirely impossible) to duplicate in other approaches to the subject. Here is a sample application of this integrality, which is challenging to reproduce by non-complex-analytic means: if is meromorphic near , and one has the bound as , then must in fact stay bounded near , because the only integer of magnitude less than is zero.

Analytic number theory is only one of many different approaches to number theory. Another important branch of the subject is algebraic number theory, which studies algebraic structures (e.g. groups, rings, and fields) of number-theoretic interest. With this perspective, the classical field of rationals , and the classical ring of integers , are placed inside the much larger field of algebraic numbers, and the much larger ring of algebraic integers, respectively. Recall that an algebraic number is a root of a polynomial with integer coefficients, and an algebraic integer is a root of a monic polynomial with integer coefficients; thus for instance is an algebraic integer (a root of ), while is merely an algebraic number (a root of ). For the purposes of this post, we will adopt the concrete (but somewhat artificial) perspective of viewing algebraic numbers and integers as lying inside the complex numbers , thus . (From a modern algebraic perspective, it is better to think of as existing as an abstract field separate from , but which has a number of embeddings into (as well as into other fields, such as the completed p-adics ), no one of which should be considered favoured over any other; cf. this mathOverflow post. But for the rudimentary algebraic number theory in this post, we will not need to work at this level of abstraction.) In particular, we identify the algebraic integer with the complex number for any natural number .

Exercise 1Show that the field of algebraic numbers is indeed a field, and that the ring of algebraic integers is indeed a ring, and is in fact an integral domain. Also, show that , that is to say the ordinary integers are precisely the algebraic integers that are also rational. Because of this, we will sometimes refer to elements of asrational integers.

In practice, the field is too big to conveniently work with directly, having infinite dimension (as a vector space) over . Thus, algebraic number theory generally restricts attention to intermediate fields between and , which are of finite dimension over ; that is to say, finite degree extensions of . Such fields are known as algebraic number fields, or *number fields* for short. Apart from itself, the simplest examples of such number fields are the quadratic fields, which have dimension exactly two over .

Exercise 2Show that if is a rational number that is not a perfect square, then the field generated by and either of the square roots of is a quadratic field. Conversely, show that all quadratic fields arise in this fashion. (Hint:show that every element of a quadratic field is a root of a quadratic polynomial over the rationals.)

The ring of algebraic integers is similarly too large to conveniently work with directly, so in algebraic number theory one usually works with the rings of algebraic integers inside a given number field . One can (and does) study this situation in great generality, but for the purposes of this post we shall restrict attention to a simple but illustrative special case, namely the quadratic fields with a certain type of negative discriminant. (The positive discriminant case will be briefly discussed in Remark 42 below.)

Exercise 3Let be a square-free natural number with or . Show that the ring of algebraic integers in is given byIf instead is square-free with , show that the ring is instead given by

What happens if is not square-free, or negative?

Remark 4In the case , it may naively appear more natural to work with the ring , which is an index two subring of . However, because this ring only captures some of the algebraic integers in rather than all of them, the algebraic properties of these rings are somewhat worse than those of (in particular, they generally fail to be Dedekind domains) and so are not convenient to work with in algebraic number theory.

We refer to fields of the form for natural square-free numbers as *quadratic fields of negative discriminant*, and similarly refer to as a ring of quadratic integers of negative discriminant. Quadratic fields and quadratic integers of positive discriminant are just as important to analytic number theory as their negative discriminant counterparts, but we will restrict attention to the latter here for simplicity of discussion.

Thus, for instance, when , the ring of integers in is the ring of Gaussian integers

and when , the ring of integers in is the ring of Eisenstein integers

where is a cube root of unity.

As these examples illustrate, the additive structure of a ring of quadratic integers is that of a two-dimensional lattice in , which is isomorphic as an additive group to . Thus, from an additive viewpoint, one can view quadratic integers as “two-dimensional” analogues of rational integers. From a *multiplicative* viewpoint, however, the quadratic integers (and more generally, integers in a number field) behave very similarly to the rational integers (as opposed to being some sort of “higher-dimensional” version of such integers). Indeed, a large part of basic algebraic number theory is devoted to treating the multiplicative theory of integers in number fields in a unified fashion, that naturally generalises the classical multiplicative theory of the rational integers.

For instance, every rational integer has an absolute value , with the multiplicativity property for , and the positivity property for all . Among other things, the absolute value detects units: if and only if is a unit in (that is to say, it is multiplicatively invertible in ). Similarly, in any ring of quadratic integers with negative discriminant, we can assign a norm to any quadratic integer by the formula

where is the complex conjugate of . (When working with other number fields than quadratic fields of negative discriminant, one instead defines to be the product of all the Galois conjugates of .) Thus for instance, when one has

Analogously to the rational integers, we have the multiplicativity property for and the positivity property for , and the units in are precisely the elements of norm one.

Exercise 5Establish the three claims of the previous paragraph. Conclude that the units (invertible elements) of consist of the four elements if , the six elements if , and the two elements if .

For the rational integers, we of course have the fundamental theorem of arithmetic, which asserts that every non-zero rational integer can be uniquely factored (up to permutation and units) as the product of irreducible integers, that is to say non-zero, non-unit integers that cannot be factored into the product of integers of strictly smaller norm. As it turns out, the same claim is true for a few additional rings of quadratic integers, such as the Gaussian integers and Eisenstein integers, but fails in general; for instance, in the ring , we have the famous counterexample

that decomposes non-uniquely into the product of irreducibles in . Nevertheless, it is an important fact that the fundamental theorem of arithmetic can be salvaged if one uses an “idealised” notion of a number in a ring of integers , now known in modern language as an ideal of that ring. For instance, in , the principal ideal turns out to uniquely factor into the product of (non-principal) ideals ; see Exercise 27. We will review the basic theory of ideals in number fields (focusing primarily on quadratic fields of negative discriminant) below the fold.

The norm forms (1), (2) can be viewed as examples of positive definite quadratic forms over the integers, by which we mean a polynomial of the form

for some integer coefficients . One can declare two quadratic forms to be *equivalent* if one can transform one to the other by an invertible linear transformation , so that . For example, the quadratic forms and are equivalent, as can be seen by using the invertible linear transformation . Such equivalences correspond to the different choices of basis available when expressing a ring such as (or an ideal thereof) additively as a copy of .

There is an important and classical invariant of a quadratic form , namely the discriminant , which will of course be familiar to most readers via the quadratic formula, which among other things tells us that a quadratic form will be positive definite precisely when its discriminant is negative. It is not difficult (particularly if one exploits the multiplicativity of the determinant of matrices) to show that two equivalent quadratic forms have the same discriminant. Thus for instance any quadratic form equivalent to (1) has discriminant , while any quadratic form equivalent to (2) has discriminant . Thus we see that each ring of quadratic integers is associated with a certain negative discriminant , defined to equal when and when .

Exercise 6 (Geometric interpretation of discriminant)Let be a quadratic form of negative discriminant , and extend it to a real form in the obvious fashion. Show that for any , the set is an ellipse of area .

It is natural to ask the converse question: if two quadratic forms have the same discriminant, are they necessarily equivalent? For certain choices of discriminant, this is the case:

Exercise 7Show that any quadratic form of discriminant is equivalent to the form , and any quadratic form of discriminant is equivalent to . (Hint:use elementary transformations to try to make as small as possible, to the point where one only has to check a finite number of cases; this argument is due to Legendre.) More generally, show that for any negative discriminant , there are only finitely many quadratic forms of that discriminant up to equivalence (a result first established by Gauss).

Unfortunately, for most choices of discriminant, the converse question fails; for instance, the quadratic forms and both have discriminant , but are not equivalent (Exercise 38). This particular failure of equivalence turns out to be intimately related to the failure of unique factorisation in the ring .

It turns out that there is a fundamental connection between quadratic fields, equivalence classes of quadratic forms of a given discriminant, and real Dirichlet characters, thus connecting the material discussed above with the last section of the previous set of notes. Here is a typical instance of this connection:

Proposition 8Let be the real non-principal Dirichlet character of modulus , or more explicitly is equal to when , when , and when .

- (i) For any natural number , the number of Gaussian integers with norm is equal to . Equivalently, the number of solutions to the equation with is . (Here, as in the previous post, the symbol denotes Dirichlet convolution.)
- (ii) For any natural number , the number of Gaussian integers that divide (thus for some ) is .

We will prove this proposition later in these notes. We observe that as a special case of part (i) of this proposition, we recover the Fermat two-square theorem: an odd prime is expressible as the sum of two squares if and only if . This proposition should also be compared with the fact, used crucially in the previous post to prove Dirichlet’s theorem, that is non-negative for any , and at least one when is a square, for any quadratic character .

As an illustration of the relevance of such connections to analytic number theory, let us now explicitly compute .

This particular identity is also known as the Leibniz formula.

*Proof:* For a large number , consider the quantity

of all the Gaussian integers of norm less than . On the one hand, this is the same as the number of lattice points of in the disk of radius . Placing a unit square centred at each such lattice point, we obtain a region which differs from the disk by a region contained in an annulus of area . As the area of the disk is , we conclude the Gauss bound

On the other hand, by Proposition 8(i) (and removing the contribution), we see that

Now we use the Dirichlet hyperbola method to expand the right-hand side sum, first expressing

and then using the bounds , , from the previous set of notes to conclude that

Comparing the two formulae for and sending , we obtain the claim.

Exercise 10Give an alternate proof of Corollary 9 that relies on obtaining asymptotics for the Dirichlet series as , rather than using the Dirichlet hyperbola method.

Exercise 11Give a direct proof of Corollary 9 that does not use Proposition 8, instead using Taylor expansion of the complex logarithm . (One can also use Taylor expansions of some other functions related to the complex logarithm here, such as the arctangent function.)

More generally, one can relate for a real Dirichlet character with the number of inequivalent quadratic forms of a certain discriminant, via the famous class number formula; we will give a special case of this formula below the fold.

The material here is only a very rudimentary introduction to algebraic number theory, and is not essential to the rest of the course. A slightly expanded version of the material here, from the perspective of analytic number theory, may be found in Sections 5 and 6 of Davenport’s book. A more in-depth treatment of algebraic number theory may be found in a number of texts, e.g. Fröhlich and Taylor.

In analytic number theory, an arithmetic function is simply a function from the natural numbers to the real or complex numbers. (One occasionally also considers arithmetic functions taking values in more general rings than or , as in this previous blog post, but we will restrict attention here to the classical situation of real or complex arithmetic functions.) Experience has shown that a particularly tractable and relevant class of arithmetic functions for analytic number theory are the multiplicative fun3ctions, which are arithmetic functions with the additional property that

whenever are coprime. (One also considers arithmetic functions, such as the logarithm function or the von Mangoldt function, that are not genuinely multiplicative, but interact closely with multiplicative functions, and can be viewed as “derived” versions of multiplicative functions; see this previous post.) A typical example of a multiplicative function is the divisor function

that counts the number of divisors of a natural number . (The divisor function is also denoted in the literature.) The study of asymptotic behaviour of multiplicative functions (and their relatives) is known as multiplicative number theory, and is a basic cornerstone of modern analytic number theory.

There are various approaches to multiplicative number theory, each of which focuses on different asymptotic statistics of arithmetic functions . In *elementary multiplicative number theory*, which is the focus of this set of notes, particular emphasis is given on the following two statistics of a given arithmetic function :

- The
*summatory functions*of an arithmetic function , as well as the associated natural density

(if it exists).

- The
*logarithmic sums*of an arithmetic function , as well as the associated

*logarithmic density*(if it exists).

Here, we are normalising the arithmetic function being studied to be of roughly unit size up to logarithms, obeying bounds such as , , or at worst

A classical case of interest is when is an indicator function of some set of natural numbers, in which case we also refer to the natural or logarithmic density of as the natural or logarithmic density of respectively. However, in analytic number theory it is usually more convenient to replace such indicator functions with other related functions that have better multiplicative properties. For instance, the indicator function of the primes is often replaced with the von Mangoldt function .

Typically, the logarithmic sums are relatively easy to control, but the summatory functions require more effort in order to obtain satisfactory estimates; see Exercise 7 below.

If an arithmetic function is multiplicative (or closely related to a multiplicative function), then there is an important further statistic on an arithmetic function beyond the summatory function and the logarithmic sum, namely the Dirichlet series

for various real or complex numbers . Under the hypothesis (3), this series is absolutely convergent for real numbers , or more generally for complex numbers with . As we will see below the fold, when is multiplicative then the Dirichlet series enjoys an important Euler product factorisation which has many consequences for analytic number theory.

In the elementary approach to multiplicative number theory presented in this set of notes, we consider Dirichlet series only for real numbers (and focusing particularly on the asymptotic behaviour as ); in later notes we will focus instead on the important *complex-analytic* approach to multiplicative number theory, in which the Dirichlet series (4) play a central role, and are defined not only for complex numbers with large real part, but are often extended analytically or meromorphically to the rest of the complex plane as well.

Remark 1The elementary and complex-analytic approaches to multiplicative number theory are the two classical approaches to the subject. One could also consider a more “Fourier-analytic” approach, in which one studies convolution-type statistics such as

as for various cutoff functions , such as smooth, compactly supported functions. See for instance this previous blog post for an instance of such an approach. Another related approach is the “pretentious” approach to multiplicative number theory currently being developed by Granville-Soundararajan and their collaborators. We will occasionally make reference to these more modern approaches in these notes, but will primarily focus on the classical approaches.

To reverse the process and derive control on summatory functions or logarithmic sums starting from control of Dirichlet series is trickier, and usually requires one to allow to be complex-valued rather than real-valued if one wants to obtain really accurate estimates; we will return to this point in subsequent notes. However, there is a cheap way to get *upper bounds* on such sums, known as *Rankin’s trick*, which we will discuss later in these notes.

The basic strategy of elementary multiplicative theory is to first gather useful estimates on the statistics of “smooth” or “non-oscillatory” functions, such as the constant function , the harmonic function , or the logarithm function ; one also considers the statistics of periodic functions such as Dirichlet characters. These functions can be understood without any multiplicative number theory, using basic tools from real analysis such as the (quantitative version of the) integral test or summation by parts. Once one understands the statistics of these basic functions, one can then move on to statistics of more arithmetically interesting functions, such as the divisor function (2) or the von Mangoldt function that we will discuss below. A key tool to relate these functions to each other is that of Dirichlet convolution, which is an operation that interacts well with summatory functions, logarithmic sums, and particularly well with Dirichlet series.

This is only an introduction to elementary multiplicative number theory techniques. More in-depth treatments may be found in this text of Montgomery-Vaughan, or this text of Bateman-Diamond.

In the winter quarter (starting January 5) I will be teaching a graduate topics course entitled “An introduction to analytic prime number theory“. As the name suggests, this is a course covering many of the analytic number theory techniques used to study the distribution of the prime numbers . I will list the topics I intend to cover in this course below the fold. As with my previous courses, I will place lecture notes online on my blog in advance of the physical lectures.

The type of results about primes that one aspires to prove here is well captured by Landau’s classical list of problems:

- Even Goldbach conjecture: every even number greater than two is expressible as the sum of two primes.
- Twin prime conjecture: there are infinitely many pairs which are simultaneously prime.
- Legendre’s conjecture: for every natural number , there is a prime between and .
- There are infinitely many primes of the form .

All four of Landau’s problems remain open, but we have convincing heuristic evidence that they are all true, and in each of the four cases we have some highly non-trivial partial results, some of which will be covered in this course. We also now have some understanding of the barriers we are facing to fully resolving each of these problems, such as the parity problem; this will also be discussed in the course.

One of the main reasons that the prime numbers are so difficult to deal with rigorously is that they have very little usable algebraic or geometric structure that we know how to exploit; for instance, we do not have any useful prime generating functions. One of course can create *non-useful* functions of this form, such as the ordered parameterisation that maps each natural number to the prime , or one could invoke Matiyasevich’s theorem to produce a polynomial of many variables whose only positive values are prime, but these sorts of functions have no usable structure to exploit (for instance, they give no insight into any of the Landau problems listed above; see also Remark 2 below). The various primality tests in the literature, while useful for practical applications (e.g. cryptography) involving primes, have also proven to be of little utility for these sorts of problems; again, see Remark 2. In fact, in order to make plausible heuristic predictions about the primes, it is best to take almost the opposite point of view to the structured viewpoint, using as a starting point the belief that the primes exhibit strong pseudorandomness properties that are largely incompatible with the presence of rigid algebraic or geometric structure. We will discuss such heuristics later in this course.

It may be in the future that some usable structure to the primes (or related objects) will eventually be located (this is for instance one of the motivations in developing a rigorous theory of the “field with one element“, although this theory is far from being fully realised at present). For now, though, analytic and combinatorial methods have proven to be the most effective way forward, as they can often be used even in the near-complete absence of structure.

In this course, we will not discuss combinatorial approaches (such as the deployment of tools from additive combinatorics) in depth, but instead focus on the analytic methods. The basic principles of this approach can be summarised as follows:

- Rather than try to isolate individual primes in , one works with the set of primes in
*aggregate*, focusing in particular on*asymptotic statistics*of this set. For instance, rather than try to find a single pair of twin primes, one can focus instead on the*count*of twin primes up to some threshold . Similarly, one can focus on counts such as , , or , which are the natural counts associated to the other three Landau problems. In all four of Landau’s problems, the basic task is now to obtain a non-trivial lower bounds on these counts. - If one wishes to proceed analytically rather than combinatorially, one should convert all these counts into sums, using the fundamental identity
(or variants thereof) for the cardinality of subsets of the natural numbers , where is the indicator function of (and ranges over ). Thus we are now interested in estimating (and particularly in lower bounding) sums such as

or

- Once one expresses number-theoretic problems in this fashion, we are naturally led to the more general question of how to accurately estimate (or, less ambitiously, to lower bound or upper bound) sums such as
or more generally bilinear or multilinear sums such as

or

for various functions of arithmetic interest. (Importantly, one should also generalise to include integrals as well as sums, particularly contour integrals or integrals over the unit circle or real line, but we postpone discussion of these generalisations to later in the course.) Indeed, a huge portion of modern analytic number theory is devoted to precisely this sort of question. In many cases, we can predict an

*expected main term*for such sums, and then the task is to control the*error term*between the true sum and its expected main term. It is often convenient to normalise the expected main term to be zero or negligible (e.g. by subtracting a suitable constant from ), so that one is now trying to show that a sum of signed real numbers (or perhaps complex numbers) is small. In other words, the question becomes one of rigorously establishing a significant amount of*cancellation*in one’s sums (also referred to as a*gain*or*savings*over a benchmark “trivial bound”). Or to phrase it negatively, the task is to rigorously prevent a*conspiracy*of non-cancellation, caused for instance by two factors in the summand exhibiting an unexpectedly large correlation with each other. - It is often difficult to discern cancellation (or to prevent conspiracy) directly for a given sum (such as ) of interest. However, analytic number theory has developed a large number of techniques to relate one sum to another, and then the strategy is to keep transforming the sum into more and more analytically tractable expressions, until one arrives at a sum for which cancellation can be directly exhibited. (Note though that there is often a short-term tradeoff between analytic tractability and algebraic simplicity; in a typical analytic number theory argument, the sums will get expanded and decomposed into many quite messy-looking sub-sums, until at some point one applies some crude estimation to replace these messy sub-sums by tractable ones again.) There are many transformations available, ranging such basic tools as the triangle inequality, pointwise domination, or the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality to key identities such as multiplicative number theory identities (such as the Vaughan identity and the Heath-Brown identity), Fourier-analytic identities (e.g. Fourier inversion, Poisson summation, or more advanced trace formulae), or complex analytic identities (e.g. the residue theorem, Perron’s formula, or Jensen’s formula). The sheer range of transformations available can be intimidating at first; there is no shortage of transformations and identities in this subject, and if one applies them randomly then one will typically just transform a difficult sum into an even more difficult and intractable expression. However, one can make progress if one is guided by the strategy of isolating and enhancing a desired cancellation (or conspiracy) to the point where it can be easily established (or dispelled), or alternatively to reach the point where no deep cancellation is needed for the application at hand (or equivalently, that no deep conspiracy can disrupt the application).
- One particularly powerful technique (albeit one which, ironically, can be highly “ineffective” in a certain technical sense to be discussed later) is to use one potential conspiracy to defeat another, a technique I refer to as the “dueling conspiracies” method. This technique may be unable to prevent a single strong conspiracy, but it can sometimes be used to prevent
*two or more*such conspiracies from occurring, which is particularly useful if conspiracies come in pairs (e.g. through complex conjugation symmetry, or a functional equation). A related (but more “effective”) strategy is to try to “disperse” a single conspiracy into several distinct conspiracies, which can then be used to defeat each other.

As stated before, the above strategy has not been able to establish any of the four Landau problems as stated. However, they can come close to such problems (and we now have some understanding as to why these problems remain out of reach of current methods). For instance, by using these techniques (and a lot of additional effort) one can obtain the following sample partial results in the Landau problems:

- Chen’s theorem: every sufficiently large even number is expressible as the sum of a prime and an almost prime (the product of at most two primes). The proof proceeds by finding a nontrivial lower bound on , where is the set of almost primes.
- Zhang’s theorem: There exist infinitely many pairs of consecutive primes with . The proof proceeds by giving a non-negative lower bound on the quantity for large and certain distinct integers between and . (The bound has since been lowered to .)
- The Baker-Harman-Pintz theorem: for sufficiently large , there is a prime between and . Proven by finding a nontrivial lower bound on .
- The Friedlander-Iwaniec theorem: There are infinitely many primes of the form . Proven by finding a nontrivial lower bound on .

We will discuss (simpler versions of) several of these results in this course.

Of course, for the above general strategy to have any chance of succeeding, one must at some point use *some* information about the set of primes. As stated previously, usefully structured parametric descriptions of do not appear to be available. However, we do have two other fundamental and useful ways to describe :

- (Sieve theory description) The primes consist of those numbers greater than one, that are not divisible by any smaller prime.
- (Multiplicative number theory description) The primes are the multiplicative generators of the natural numbers : every natural number is uniquely factorisable (up to permutation) into the product of primes (the fundamental theorem of arithmetic).

The sieve-theoretic description and its variants lead one to a good understanding of the *almost primes*, which turn out to be excellent tools for controlling the primes themselves, although there are known limitations as to how much information on the primes one can extract from sieve-theoretic methods alone, which we will discuss later in this course. The multiplicative number theory methods lead one (after some complex or Fourier analysis) to the Riemann zeta function (and other L-functions, particularly the Dirichlet L-functions), with the distribution of zeroes (and poles) of these functions playing a particularly decisive role in the multiplicative methods.

Many of our strongest results in analytic prime number theory are ultimately obtained by incorporating some combination of the above two fundamental descriptions of (or variants thereof) into the general strategy described above. In contrast, more advanced descriptions of , such as those coming from the various primality tests available, have (until now, at least) been surprisingly ineffective in practice for attacking problems such as Landau’s problems. One reason for this is that such tests generally involve operations such as exponentiation or the factorial function , which grow too quickly to be amenable to the analytic techniques discussed above.

To give a simple illustration of these two basic approaches to the primes, let us first give two variants of the usual proof of Euclid’s theorem:

Theorem 1 (Euclid’s theorem)There are infinitely many primes.

*Proof:* (Multiplicative number theory proof) Suppose for contradiction that there were only finitely many primes . Then, by the fundamental theorem of arithmetic, every natural number is expressible as the product of the primes . But the natural number is larger than one, but not divisible by any of the primes , a contradiction.

(Sieve-theoretic proof) Suppose for contradiction that there were only finitely many primes . Then, by the Chinese remainder theorem, the set of natural numbers that is not divisible by any of the has density , that is to say

In particular, has positive density and thus contains an element larger than . But the least such element is one further prime in addition to , a contradiction.

Remark 1One can also phrase the proof of Euclid’s theorem in a fashion that largely avoids the use of contradiction; see this previous blog post for more discussion.

Both proofs in fact extend to give a stronger result:

*Proof:* (Multiplicative number theory proof) By the fundamental theorem of arithmetic, every natural number is expressible uniquely as the product of primes in increasing order. In particular, we have the identity

(both sides make sense in as everything is unsigned). Since the left-hand side is divergent, the right-hand side is as well. But

and , so must be divergent.

(Sieve-theoretic proof) Suppose for contradiction that the sum is convergent. For each natural number , let be the set of natural numbers not divisible by the first primes , and let be the set of numbers not divisible by any prime in . As in the previous proof, each has density . Also, since contains at most multiples of , we have from the union bound that

Since is assumed to be convergent, we conclude that the density of converges to the density of ; thus has density , which is non-zero by the hypothesis that converges. On the other hand, since the primes are the only numbers greater than one not divisible by smaller primes, is just , which has density zero, giving the desired contradiction.

Remark 2We have seen how easy it is to prove Euler’s theorem by analytic methods. In contrast, there does not seem to be any known proof of this theorem that proceeds by using any sort of prime-generating formula or a primality test, which is further evidence that such tools are not the most effective way to make progress on problems such as Landau’s problems. (But the weaker theorem of Euclid, Theorem 1, can sometimes be proven by such devices.)

The two proofs of Theorem 2 given above are essentially the same proof, as is hinted at by the geometric series identity

One can also see the Riemann zeta function begin to make an appearance in both proofs. Once one goes beyond Euler’s theorem, though, the sieve-theoretic and multiplicative methods begin to diverge significantly. On one hand, sieve theory can still handle to some extent sets such as twin primes, despite the lack of multiplicative structure (one simply has to sieve out two residue classes per prime, rather than one); on the other, multiplicative number theory can attain results such as the prime number theorem for which purely sieve theoretic techniques have not been able to establish. The deepest results in analytic number theory will typically require a combination of both sieve-theoretic methods and multiplicative methods in conjunction with the many transforms discussed earlier (and, in many cases, additional inputs from other fields of mathematics such as arithmetic geometry, ergodic theory, or additive combinatorics).

Things are pretty quiet here during the holiday season, but one small thing I have been working on recently is a set of notes on special relativity that I will be working through in a few weeks with some bright high school students here at our local math circle. I have only two hours to spend with this group, and it is unlikely that we will reach the end of the notes (in which I derive the famous mass-energy equivalence relation E=mc^2, largely following Einstein’s original derivation as discussed in this previous blog post); instead we will probably spend a fair chunk of time on related topics which do not actually require special relativity *per se*, such as spacetime diagrams, the Doppler shift effect, and an analysis of my airport puzzle. This will be my first time doing something of this sort (in which I will be spending as much time interacting directly with the students as I would lecturing); I’m not sure exactly how it will play out, being a little outside of my usual comfort zone of undergraduate and graduate teaching, but am looking forward to finding out how it goes. (In particular, it may end up that the discussion deviates somewhat from my prepared notes.)

The material covered in my notes is certainly not new, but I ultimately decided that it was worth putting up here in case some readers here had any corrections or other feedback to contribute (which, as always, would be greatly appreciated).

*[Dec 24 and then Jan 21: notes updated, in response to comments.]*

I recently finished the first draft of the the first of my books, entitled “Hilbert’s fifth problem and related topics“, based on the lecture notes for my graduate course of the same name. The PDF of this draft is available here. As always, comments and corrections are welcome.

This is an addendum to last quarter’s course notes on Hilbert’s fifth problem, which I am in the process of reviewing in order to transcribe them into a book (as was done similarly for several other sets of lecture notes on this blog). When reviewing the zeroth set of notes in particular, I found that I had made a claim (Proposition 11 from those notes) which asserted, roughly speaking, that any sufficiently large nilprogression was an approximate group, and promised to prove it later in the course when we had developed the ability to calculate efficiently in nilpotent groups. As it turned out, I managed finish the course without the need to develop these calculations, and so the proposition remained unproven. In order to rectify this, I will use this post to lay out some of the basic algebra of nilpotent groups, and use it to prove the above proposition, which turns out to be a bit tricky. (In my paper with Breuillard and Green, we avoid the need for this proposition by restricting attention to a special type of nilprogression, which we call a nilprogression in -normal form, for which the computations are simpler.)

There are several ways to think about nilpotent groups; for instance one can use the model example of the Heisenberg group

over an arbitrary ring (which need not be commutative), or more generally any matrix group consisting of unipotent upper triangular matrices, and view a general nilpotent group as being an abstract generalisation of such concrete groups. (In the case of nilpotent Lie groups, at least, this is quite an accurate intuition, thanks to Engel’s theorem.) Or, one can adopt a Lie-theoretic viewpoint and try to think of nilpotent groups as somehow arising from nilpotent Lie algebras; this intuition is rigorous when working with nilpotent Lie groups (at least when the characteristic is large, in order to avoid issues coming from the denominators in the Baker-Campbell-Hausdorff formula), but also retains some conceptual value in the non-Lie setting. In particular, nilpotent groups (particularly finitely generated ones) can be viewed in some sense as “nilpotent Lie groups over “, even though Lie theory does not quite work perfectly when the underlying scalars merely form an integral domain instead of a field.

Another point of view, which arises naturally both in analysis and in algebraic geometry, is to view nilpotent groups as modeling “infinitesimal” perturbations of the identity, where the infinitesimals have a certain finite order. For instance, given a (not necessarily commutative) ring without identity (representing all the “small” elements of some larger ring or algebra), we can form the powers for , defined as the ring generated by -fold products of elements in ; this is an ideal of which represents the elements which are “ order” in some sense. If one then formally adjoins an identity onto the ring , then for any , the multiplicative group is a nilpotent group of step at most . For instance, if is the ring of strictly upper matrices (over some base ring), then vanishes and becomes the group of unipotent upper triangular matrices over the same ring, thus recovering the previous matrix-based example. In analysis applications, might be a ring of operators which are somehow of “order” or for some small parameter or , and one wishes to perform Taylor expansions up to order or , thus discarding (i.e. quotienting out) all errors in .

From a dynamical or group-theoretic perspective, one can also view nilpotent groups as towers of central extensions of a trivial group. Finitely generated nilpotent groups can also be profitably viewed as a special type of polycylic group; this is the perspective taken in this previous blog post. Last, but not least, one can view nilpotent groups from a combinatorial group theory perspective, as being words from some set of generators of various “degrees” subject to some commutation relations, with commutators of two low-degree generators being expressed in terms of higher degree objects, and all commutators of a sufficiently high degree vanishing. In particular, generators of a given degree can be moved freely around a word, as long as one is willing to generate commutator errors of higher degree.

With this last perspective, in particular, one can start computing in nilpotent groups by adopting the philosophy that the lowest order terms should be attended to first, without much initial concern for the higher order errors generated in the process of organising the lower order terms. Only after the lower order terms are in place should attention then turn to higher order terms, working successively up the hierarchy of degrees until all terms are dealt with. This turns out to be a relatively straightforward philosophy to implement in many cases (particularly if one is not interested in explicit expressions and constants, being content instead with qualitative expansions of controlled complexity), but the arguments are necessarily recursive in nature and as such can become a bit messy, and require a fair amount of notation to express precisely. So, unfortunately, the arguments here will be somewhat cumbersome and notation-heavy, even if the underlying methods of proof are relatively simple.

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